The Question Most ALL Parents Have Had to Answer




It’s a well-intentioned question, rhetorical in a sense because most, if not all, people are expecting you to respond, “Yes!” But what if you answered, “No”? Well, I have and I can tell you it’s not what people expect you to say!


My son begins kindergarten in a short 6 weeks. This spring as he finished up preschool several acquaintances asked me the above question. If I didn’t have much time to answer or felt they were just asking to be polite, not really interested in my response, I gave them what they wanted to hear, “Yes, I think he’s ready.” For those that asked with genuine concern in their voice, I answered honestly by saying, “I’m not sure.” Their puzzled expressions begged me to explain myself.


Why am I not sure? It’s not that he doesn’t appear prepared or that I don’t think he will be successful. It’s just that I’m not sure he’s “ready” per the kindergarten readiness checklist of most people. Does he know all his letters and their sounds? I don’t know. Is he able to write his first and last names, count to 30 and recognize some sight words? I don’t know. Can he sit for extended periods of times, undistracted enough to complete a structured, academic activity? I don’t know.


My son attended 3 preschools between the ages of 2 and 5. The first was very academically structured, the second very traditional and the last (and my most favorite, read why here) teaches children how to think, not what to think. Upon his graduation from preschool, he has matured in ways I didn’t think possible a year ago. I consider his growth and maturation over the past three years as preparedness for kindergarten but by most school systems standards that’s not what constitutes a child being “ready”.


I had a very short but impactful conversation with Lisa Murphy, The Ooey Gooey Lady, about my son entering kindergarten. I explained to her I didn’t think he was ready because he couldn’t do X, Y and Z. She looked at me and said, “Well, he shouldn’t. He’s only 4.” She went on to explain that sometimes we just have to trust the natural trajectory of development. Instead of pushing unrealistic expectations on preschoolers, expecting them to perform, act, think and behave like kindergarteners let’s expect of them what’s developmentally appropriate for their age. And trust that when the time is right, when they are developmentally ready, then they will be where they need to be…not too soon, not too late, but just on time.


I had that conversation with Lisa in February of 2013. O turned 5 that spring and my husband and I decided we would wait a year on kindergarten and give him one more year of preschool. That decision was quite possibly the best decision we have made for him (aside from our decision to go FEINGOLD)! But I was careful in my decision. Because of my work and research on play and developmentally appropriate age expectations, I didn’t want to send him to preschool 5 mornings a week so that he could get “ready” for kindergarten. He continued attending only 3 mornings a week. After all, if I was giving him another year at home, I didn’t want it to be boot camp for kindergarten; I wanted him to enjoy it and I wanted to enjoy more time with him! And we had a wonderful year! He happily attended school, loved being there, learning and exploring. He also enjoyed his down time at home just playing, just being a 5 year old. I’m so thankful I was able to give that to him.


So when people really want me to answer their question, when they have a minute to spare and appear genuinely interested in my answer, I tell them I’m not sure he’s ready by most other people’s standards, but I know he’s going to be okay and figure it out. I trust that when the time comes, when he hops on that bus and waves bye to me, I will be smiling trusting my decisions and the miracle of development that is him. He will be okay and when he needs me, I’ll be here to catch, encourage and support him like I always have been. It’s just another time in his life when he’s going to have to use his SUPERPOWERS to succeed without me.


So if you see me and ask me that age-old question, “Is he ready for kindergarten?” Just be prepared to hear my answer… and it may take a while! J



A Preschool Checklist in Pictures: what you want to see when picking your peanut’s preschool.

Preschool…once a privilege to a few kids is now commonplace for most.  Kids that enter kindergarten without any preschool experience are the minority these days.  Nursery school, as it was once called, was geared primarily toward affording children opportunities to play and build social skills.  Preschools today may mention play and building social skills in their description but more often stress their academic structure and extracurricular offerings such as foreign language exposure and computer skill training.  What?!?! We need to get back to the basics people!  What 3-5 year old kids need is exactly what our ancestors found to be most important:  PLAY!  Because we know that the best way for kids this age to learn is through trial and error, hands on exploration and free play, we must find preschools that stress these things and not other developmentally inappropriate skills.  A wise woman once said, “Preschool is not boot camp for kindergarten.”


I couldn’t agree more!  Why are we expecting 3 and 4 year olds to sit for 30 minutes of tabletop structured writing activities?  Developmentally they shouldn’t be able to do this, so why are we expecting it from them?  There is a lot to be said in trusting a child’s natural developmental trajectory.  How about we don’t become overly excited when standards (set too high for their tender age) aren’t met in preschool and instead expect those skills when they are developmentally appropriate?


My son is blessed to attend a preschool that stresses the most important things for the preschool years:  allowing children opportunities to grow in their independence, develop a strong sense of self, and be able to use their creativity in working and learning as healthy, thinking individuals.  His school offers opportunities for true and creative play.  Reading this might worry some parents because no where in this school’s mission statement is there mention of learning to write his name, label shapes or count to 20.  Funny thing is, he has learned all of that and SO much more.  But the material is presented in a way that is fun, interesting and memorable to him; no worksheets, flashcards or repetitive writing tasks here.  He is engaged through multi-sensory activities that afford him age appropriate access to learning. Absolute perfection in the preschool world!!


The fabulous school I am referring to is Child’s Play, Inc.  Miss Melanie, Miss Liz and Miss Aimee are the extraordinary teachers at this school that I am forever thankful for.  Below are snapshots of what their school days look like.  I felt the learning that takes place at Child’s Play is much better expressed through Miss Melanie’s talented photography (shared on her Facebook page) than any typed checklist I could provide.  Take a look, a close look at what and how the children are learning through the fabulous experiences they are engaged in.  Keep these photos in mind as you decide, visit and attend prospective preschools with your little one.  Give childhood (and preschool-hood) back to our kids.  These years should be when they develop their love for learning, not when we are training them to be soldiers!



If you need something more to read, this article includes a GREAT checklist for parents when exploring options and visiting preschools.  Good luck in your search and may you also be as fortunate as I in finding a preschool as perfect as Child’s Play!

Dear Parents…

Dear Parents,

There is something I need you to know.

Your children really need to play.

Why, you ask, do I care?

I care because I work with infants and toddlers and have two elementary aged daughters. I see every day as an early childhood professional and as a parent what our society is doing to children and families. I’ve been there….where you may be. Sitting in a friend’s playroom with your two year olds. Looking at the 40 different toys that sing the alphabet and count in 4 languages. I’ve stared at the items labeled with site words around the room and the shelves of books and flashcards teaching letters and sounds. I have had the pang of panic. I’ve heard that little voice in my head, “If she can’t recite letters or shapes or…will..she.. EVER be ready for Kindergarten?”   “If she can’t sit through story hour…how will she EVER sit through circle time?” “If she can’t recognize her letter get into HARVARD?”

What you need to know.

PLAY builds brains. Simple as that. 40% of the neural connections in the brain at birth are “extra.” Babies prune out what they don’t need and strengthen what they use. Flip flashcards in front of their face and yes, they might be able to recite back that small amount of information on cue. Let them make shapes out of stones, turn Play doh into pictures, and count while throwing blocks into a bucket and they will LEARN and REMEMBER.  Why? Because REAL LEARNING occurs in context. Children learn through all senses…engage them and it becomes permanent for them.  Your child can’t sit still? GOOD. They shouldn’t be able to! Learn while MOVING through PLAY! Jump, climb, dance. This is what small children should do.

How this applies to you.

Your parent gut screams to you loud and clear what your child needs. So tell it to stare that message that society is sending you down, and tell it to ZIP IT. Your actions and decisions as a parent matter for your child. I don’t say this to stress you. I say it to EMPOWER you. Breathe. Your child needs you and time and space to PLAY. How can this look for your family? SCHEDULE unscheduled time. Don’t sign up for so many (or any) “classes” for infants and toddlers. Go to the park or join a play group instead. Looking for daycares or preschools? Search for ones that have less “curriculum” and more play. Don’t ask the teacher “what did she learn today?” Ask, “What did they play today?” Because the answer to the second question will tell you WHAT SHE LEARNED. Don’t feel like she didn’t get the whole experience you paid for if there is NO WORK SHEET at the end of the day. I have an 8 year old. Trust my journey if I have come before you…you will get enough worksheets in your child’s lifetime to wallpaper 4 houses. If you are handed an art project that looks different than the other children’s EMBRACE IT. It means your child is learning to express themself individually. If it appears your child spent all day JUST PLAYING… EMBRACE IT. It means he had time to build his own interests, socialize with friends, learn to resolve conflicts, and release stress. It means he was able to keep his body healthy and sensory system regulated.

The good news? 

Do Less. Enjoy more. Be in the moment. Just say no to the craziness of it all. You will be happier. Your child will be happier – and healthier & smarter too. 


So enjoy your kid. Go PLAY!



For more information on what REAL development looks like (no reading at 18 months is NOT TYPICAL) and ways to support development through PLAY – click here)